Political ambitions, inconsistencies behind Gov. McDonnell’s line-item veto

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When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell used his line-item veto to slash another $424,000 in state subsidies for public broadcasting, it played well to his Republican conservative base, but his decision to target public radio and television stations was fueled more by political ambitions than fiscal responsibility, according to newspaper columnists who weighed in on the last minute, irrevocable cut.

McDonnell’s supporters were “thrilled by the veto,” writes Peter Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but they probably don’t recognize the inconsistencies in McDonnell’s stances on various culture war issues. He pointed to McDonnell’s endorsement of a $4.6 million package of tax breaks for a Stephen Spielberg movie about Abraham Lincoln that will be filmed in Virginia. Spielberg is “a symbol of the deep-pocketed, film-colony strain of Democratic liberalism that some conservatives say permeates public broadcasting,” Schapiro wrote. Not only that, the moviemaker contributed more than $125,000 to Democratic candidates last year.

Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey ridiculed McDonnell for the veto, comparing him to a screeching peacock with outspread tail feathers. “This is what passes for political machismo in national GOP politics these days,” Casey wrote. “It’s a ploy to get McDonnell maximum notice during the presidential primary season that begins in earnest later this year….McDonnell’s action is wrong. It shortchanges everybody and rewards nobody. Except McDonnell — it could buy him a slot on the Republican presidential ticket.”

Op-ed writers for the Times-Dispatch described McDonnell’s rationale for cutting deeper into pubcasting’s state aid as sound and compelling, but wrote that governor undercut his credibility by shelling out so much corporate welfare in the new budget. Pointing the Spielberg film, they asked: “Shouldn’t movies, like radio shows, also be left to the private sector?”